The Lake District has strong links with a wealth of famous writers, from poet William Wordsworth to the legendary children’s author Beatrix Potter. Add to this the region’s fascinating Roman heritage and its collection of imposing country manors and gardens, and visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to historical attractions near Windermere.
Castlerigg Stone Circle (near Keswick)
Castlerigg is the most visited stone circle in Cumbria, and justifiably so – it is situated in a beautiful, atmospheric setting against a stunning backdrop of mountains, with far-reaching, panoramic views. You can see some of the highest peaks in Cumbria from this site, including Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Grasmoor and Blencathra. It’s located about 18 miles from Windermere and the Howbeck Guest House, but is well worth the trip – not only is it one of the most striking of the country’s stone circles, but it’s also one of the earliest, created during the Neolithic period in about 3000 BC.
Hill Top (near Hawkshead)
This 17th-century house, once the home of children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, showcases authentic Lakeland vernacular architecture with its slate roof and random stone walls. The author left it in her will to The National Trust, and today it is open to the public who can explore the interior rooms and the cottage garden – all preserved just as Beatrix Potter would have left them.
Birdoswald Roman Fort (near Brampton)
If you fancy a drive north through some spectacular Lakeland landscapes, you could head up to Hadrian’s Wall and Birdoswald Roman Fort near Brampton, which is situated in an incredibly picturesque setting overlooking the River Irthing gorge. Visitors can explore extensive remains of the Roman Fort and see the longest remaining continuous stretch of the Roman frontier system.
Interactive displays and collections of artefacts are brought together in a Visitors’ Centre, which brings the site to life by telling the fort’s story and describing the border raids of the middle ages. The site is also home to some rare resident wildlife such as red squirrels, and the tea room serves up some tasty cakes.
Muncaster Castle (Ravenglass)
This historic castle is set in 70 acres of landscaped gardens and is also home to the World Owl Centre and the MeadowVole Maze. Visit with the family during the day, or join a night-time ‘Ghost Sit’ for a spookier experience.
Wordsworth House and Garden (Cockermouth)
Poet William Wordsworth’s childhood home has been brought alive with costumed servants, tales from members of the household and hands-on activities. Discover what life was really like for the family and their servants in the 18th century, and take in the sights and sounds of the working 18th-century kitchen, discovering how they used all their home-grown produce. Visitors can also listen to the harpsichord, play with period children’s toys, dress up in replica costume, and learn about the Cumbrian market town of Cockermouth in the 1770s.
Levens Hall and Gardens
The grade I-listed garden at Levens Hall dates from 1694, and the magnificent topiary is some of the oldest in the world. As well as exploring the wonderful gardens — including an orchard, nuttery and herb garden, bowling green, rose garden and herbaceous borders — the estate offers a range of other attractions. There is a collection of steam engines; food and drink at the Bellingham Buttery, which offers a home-cooked menu and their very own Morocco Ale, brewed to an original 18th-century recipe; a children’s play area; and a well-stocked gift shop selling estate produce, gardening gifts, and keepsakes such as mugs, prints and original pastel drawings of the garden by local artist Libby Edmondson.